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National carrier? National disgrace more like

Written By: - Date published: 10:30 am, May 5th, 2009 - 37 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags:

It’s a few days late but last Saturday’s Herald story about Air New Zealand preparing strikebreakers for the Zeal 320 strike this weekend depressed the hell out of me.

What exactly is our national carrier, which is more than 80% publicly owned, doing boasting about how it can break its own workers?

Let me be clear that I am not naive, of course a business is going to try to ameliorate the effects of strike action but to talk about it so openly and boast about how well trained their strike breakers are shows an astounding arrogance.

Strike action is the final option for most workers, especially low paid workers like these. It only comes after they are given no other choice by their employer and it hurts all parties involved.

The deal with the Zeal crew is that they are employed by a holding company, Zeal 320, that Air New Zealand owns and that company has an agreement to staff Air New Zealand flights. They are the only employees of Zeal 320. Every one of their managers is employed by Air NZ.

The result of this arrangement is that they do exactly the same work as Air New Zealand workers while the company can keep them separate from the much better pay rates and conditions of Air New Zealand workers.

And it’s the only reason I can think of that would exempt the airline from the fact that employing strikebreakers from outside is illegal under the Employment Relations Act.

This cynical use of a legal fiction to undercut workers’ pay and conditions is bad enough behaviour from the so-called national carrier but boasting about how they plan to keep this arrangement in place by strikebreaking? That’s disgraceful.

37 comments on “National carrier? National disgrace more like ”

  1. Kevin Welsh 1

    I agree Eddie, its bloody disgusting.

    The only reason they are the only employees of Zeal 320, IS to enforce lower pay and conditions.

    They may be employed by Zeal 320, but in a moral reality they are employed by Air New Zealand.

    Is this the beginning of a new type of business in New Zealand? It worked for GM in the 90’s when they spun off their parts division, so why not here?

  2. burt 2

    So who is the nasty corporate employer who set all this up?

    It’s easy really just boycott Air NZ. The shareholders will wish they never acted in such a greedy way to maximise profit. Pity it’s not publicly owned cause a caring govt would never let this happen Dooooh.

    • Eddie 2.1

      This doesn’t have anything to do with the government of the day. Labour never intervened in Air New Zealand in the pas so I don’t see how it would be any different if they were in government now.

      I’d like to see it brought under full public ownership and required to have decent employment practices. It’s a disgrace the way they’re operating, and even worse that successive governments have let it continue unchecked.

      • cocamc 2.1.1

        Air NZ is owned at about 75% buy the Govt (the people).
        Are you advocating that all companies with bad employment practices are brought under public ownership? As you say successive governments have allowed in your words this to continue. What does bringing it under public ownership achieve then?

  3. Daveo 3

    Yeah it’s disgraceful all right, but I don’t find it surprising. Look at what that fuckwit Fyfe did to airport services and engineering, he’s called Fyfe the Knife for a reason.

  4. burt 4

    Under full public ownership – waiting lists for flights and special fares for union members. Oh yes lets try and control a commercial enterprise and see how much money we can throw away second guessing agile competition.

  5. bilbo 5

    I don’t know why you’re so depressed, as the President of the Labour party and secretary of the EPMU says.

    “…… he did not believe the move would pose any safety risk.

    As long as the airline was not recruiting outsiders, it was within its rights in calling for volunteers.”

    Mr Little indicated there was still a chance of avoiding the strike.

    Although the union had dropped a bid for pay parity between the Zeal attendants and other Air NZ cabin crew, it wanted a better deal than the 3.9 per cent wage rise and $350 one-off payment on offer.

  6. I work for Zeal320 and I started a blog last week, It shows just how dirty the company is being towards all of the crew, your welcome to check it out.

    I’m very concerned about the crew, as they have been working half of us to the point of fatigue, falling asleep in jump seats while the plane is landing…..”being to scared to call in fatigued or sick as they will not promote you if you have more than 5 of these days on your employement record” or the opposite they’ve been taking work away from particular cabin crew to the point they’re working only 6-10 days in a 28 day roster, so these people won’t be able to afford to strike, if they’re earning $700-800 every two weeks building up to the strike.

    come read my blog there’s more

    • Eddie 6.1

      Zealgirl’s posts are eye-opening. http://zealgirl.wordpress.com/

      Fyfe and his gang have started a dirty war of undermining Zeal320 workers before the strike by changing their shifts at short notice, minimising their work time so their incomes are stretched even before striking, and targeting specific workers.

      It’s all designed to lower morale and make standing up for better pay finanically impossible. Hopefully, there’s money in the strike fund to help keep them going when they walk off the job.

  7. burt 7

    If some self serving muppets didn’t find it an embarrassment to land in other countries without “NZ’ on the plane this wouldn’t be a problem.

    If [xyz-Air ltd.] was treating its staff like this we (the collective we) would boycott them. We (the collective we) are compromised because of the public ownership. So what do we do now spend more public money to make a commercial enterprise behave in the way we want it to? Keep paying higher fares than we can get via the competition to support NZ made ? (even lprent thought that was a silly idea for this blog).

    Labour made a big mistake bailing out a failing commercial venture in a high competition environment. The King of Tonga had to have an airline and look what happened to that. It bankrupt the King and the country – apart from the fact it will take longer because both the NZ economy and Air NZ are bigger than the Tongan economy and Air Tonga why are we any different having a national carrier than Tonga ? It’s a mighty high price we pay to pretend we can support it.

    The EPMU have suddenly woken up to the issues of Air NZ now Labour are not in govt, how predictable was that. Shame on the EPMU for not wanting to ruffle Labour govt feathers and allowing this situation to develop to where it is now. Pity their loyalty to not rocking the Labour party boat was bigger than their loyalty to workers since the time Air NZ was nationalised to save the PM’s face when she landed in Aussie. Different story now National are in govt eh how shallow the self serving lefties look over all of this.

    • Daveo 7.1

      Air NZ’s already making fine profits burt, they could afford to give these workers parity just by canning Rob Fyfe’s recent 93% pay rise.

      Oh and the Zeal 320 crew only joined the EPMU last year you fool. They were with the flight attendants’ union before that.

    • Eddie 7.2

      Zeal320 staff were not members of the EPMU until recently. Like Daveo says they were previously in the flight attendants’ union and the unionisation rate was much lower. The EPMU has got them organised, got them unionised, and supported them in getting a fair pay rise. Previously, they would have been unorganised and ended up taking whatever the bosses offered (ie nothing)

      So, there goes your conspiracy theory, Burt.

      • burt 7.2.1


        Not really, the issue of how it occured and why it suddenly looks unacceptable is an interesting thing.

        But on the other issues I raised: I’m flying to Auckland for a few days in a couple of weeks. I have a choice – Pacific Blue $40 each way or Air NZ $90 each way…

        What would lprent do in this situation ?

      • burt 7.2.2


        Previously, they would have been unorganised and ended up taking whatever the bosses offered (ie nothing)

        So the union they were using was useless and the bosses were assholes. Remind me again what percentage of voting rights the govt have on the board?

        • Eddie

          If you’re saying the govt should use its power as a shareholder to get Fyfe and his crew fired, I’m all with you.

  8. The Voice of Reason 8

    Jeez, Burt, most of us re-read and self edit our posts before hitting send, but feel free to carry on with your stream of unconsiousness if you want.

    Daveo has already pointed out the fact that majority of attendants chose to switch to the EPMU only recently and the fact that they are organised now and prepared to fight is a tribute to them and their organiser(s) at the union.

    The EPMU has consistantly battled Air NZ for years, decades even. Most recently, the union spent hundreds of thousands of dollars saving the jobs of aircraft engineers in Ak and Chch. The EPMU in my experiance not only put their money where their mouth is, they follow through on their commitments to members. That’s not the case with some of the other publicly militant unions, I’m afraid.

    All power to the attendants! Yah, boo, sucks to Fyfe and his flying scabs!

  9. burt 9

    The Voice of Reason

    The EPMU has consistantly battled Air NZ for years, decades even.

    Do you have any links for that ?

    • Eddie 9.1

      I may well be missing some disputes but the last high-profile one I can remember was EPMU fighting for enginneers’ jobs back in 2006 (during a, shock!, labour government) http://www.epmu.org.nz/news/show/132402

      As I understand it there was a period of quite good relations between the workers and the company in the early 1990s, until Fyfe came along. He and his henchmen have cut wages and outsourced wherever they can, antagonising the workers, leading to disputes.

      Don’t forget, of course, that strikes and disputes are just a small part of what unions do, most of it is supporting the rights of individual members when things go wrong.

      Also, the EPMU only formed in the late 1990s but before that there’s a long history of strong unions in the air industry.

      • burt 9.1.1

        So no documented history of the EPMU speaking out about Zeal320 prior to the National govt then ?

        • Daveo

          I see you haven’t taken VoR’s advice burt. The EPMU started speaking out about Zeal320 after its first ever collective negotiations with them broke down and turned into strike action. What’s that got to do with whether Labour or National is in government, and why do you feel the need to politicise this?

        • Daveo

          Oh my God you’re right burt! The first mention I can find is a news story on the EPMU website on November 14! That’s six days after the election of John Key! Quick, phone the Herald burt, show them this, http://www.epmu.org.nz/news/show/172648

          But before you get ahead of yourself you might want to look through the news stories here, http://www.epmu.org.nz/aviation/

          Anyone would think the EPMU was in conflict with Air NZ at engineering in 2006 (and again in 2008), at ground services and Air Nelson in 2007, with Safe Air in late 2008 and with Zeal in 2008-2009. But that was during a Labour government so it can’t be true, can it burt?

        • Eddie

          Come on Burt, at least bother to read and remember the responses people give you. It’s like having a conversation with a goldfish.

          • Maynard J

            Eddie, I have it on sound knowledge that during the US Airways dispute, the EPMU did not speak out.

            In fact, as burt so wilfully points out, the EPMU has a shameful history of not speaking out over disputes it has no involvement with. Just disgusting.

  10. The Voice of Reason 10

    Nope, Burt, I don’t have any links. Perhaps if any EPMUers are reading this they can give us the full history. My ‘decades’ comment was based on my admittedly hazy memory of the arrest of a couple of Engineers Union officials on the tarmac at Auckland Airport back in the seventies or early eighties.

    I think it was an access rights dispute and one the men was the then Ak secretary Jim Butterworth.

    If I’m close to right about that event, I think my comment stands.

  11. felix 11

    Wow, burt. First day back and you’ve wasted no time using your vast store of ignorance to cleverly leverage yourself into a position of looking like a total fucking fool.

    Are you going to be writing a guest post on retrospective validation? I seriously think you should submit one. I bet there are lots of readers who’d like to hear your views on National’s rv vs Labour’s.

    Go on burt, you know you want to.

    • burt 11.1

      You bet. I’m going to wait though because Bradley is apparently looking into the situation re purchase advisiors. If Bradley finds that laws were broken I’ll be calling for a court case to sort it all out. Will you be calling move on like last time the ref made a bad call or is it different this time? If so why?

      • Daveo 11.1.1

        Burt! I’m still waiting for your reply mate. Are you going to ring the bloody Herald with your scoop or do I have to?

        • burt


          Your idea, you take the glory.

          • Daveo

            No, seriously burt, the glory on this is all yours. Go on, take it, go call the Herald. Tell them what you’ve found.

      • felix 11.1.2

        Not sure what comments of mine you could be referring to, but good on you burt.

  12. The Voice of Reason 12

    “Eddie, I have it on sound knowledge that during the US Airways dispute, the EPMU did not speak out.

    In fact, as burt so wilfully points out, the EPMU has a shameful history of not speaking out over disputes it has no involvement with. Just disgusting.”

    -Maynard J

    Does the J stand for joke, Maynard?

    I looked up their news release page and I can confirm that EPMU has also stayed silent on the Ellerslie Flower Show, Dancing with the Stars and the florid state of Nick Smith’s face. So what?

    Is it written somewhere that anytime there is an industrial dispute anywhere in the world, the EPMU must comment? Particularly disputes ‘it has no involvement with’?

    Can you elaborate more on your ‘sound knowledge’ please? Or are you just making it up as you go?

    • felix 12.1

      *ahem* I think Maynard might have been taking the piss.

      • The Voice of Reason 12.1.1

        Crikey! You might be right, Felix. If so, humble apologies and I’ll recalibrate my bullshit detector accordingly. Mind you, I did ask if the J stood for joke; just didn’t think it’d be on me.

        How about it Maynard? Satire or intense dislike of the EPMU?

  13. zealist 13

    thanks for your support (minus burt!) over the zeal320 action 🙂 air nz and its king Rob fyffe are currently getting the designs etc for a new uniform to be unveiled for 2010… so i love how King Fyffe is saying the company cant afford to pay us more and give us better conditions because “we are in the middle of a recession” but they can spend millions on a new uniform….the last new uniform was 2008 and the one before that 2006.
    He also said he was too busy dealing with air nz’s response to the swine flu outbreak for a full 5 days instead of fronting up for the negotiations/mediations etc like the union asked because we wernt getting anywhere with middle management. I hope by now he has found the cure for the strain of swine flu

  14. burt 14


    It’s not that I don’t support your cause, I do. Please don’t take it personally, I’m pleased that the EPMU has got involved because it certainly seems the flight attendants union was piss useless.

    The problem as I see it is that you are employed off shore, unless I’m to turn around and say “Your fault for signing the contract” I’ve got to look at the Air NZ for putting that in place. Now the problem here is that it’s not as simple as fire Fyfe, if it were that would have been done years ago. It’s obvious the EPMU and therefore Labour were acutely aware of this through Little. People here tell me the EPMU has been all over Air NZ for years.

    So where were the workers rights party who were the majority shareholder of the company while that was being put into place? What were they doing? How profit motivated were they to let this occur?

    I apologise if you thought I was being dispassionate about your cause, I’m not. I’m more reacting to the logic presented here that it’s the companies fault (Air NZ), which it is but no point in shooting the CEO delivering on profit objectives set by the majority shareholder.

    Best of luck to you, I hope it’s sorted so that you are onto a NZ based employment contract, that would also seem like a responsible thing for a state owned business to do in a recession.

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